Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Poynter: 'Gannett Way' isn't everyone's strategy

From a column this morning by the Poynter Institute's Rick Edmonds, regarding Gannett's layoff of 700 newspaper workers yesterday: 

Metro papers like the Boston Globe and Dallas Morning News that have adopted a high price/high quality circulation strategy know readers will not be satisfied with skinny papers that have little worth reading. So those newsrooms are protected and, in a few cases, growing.


  1. Here's what I don't understand: In the ongoing move toward total digital delivery, what is going to be delivered if newsrooms are gutted and quality content-providers are gone?

  2. Profits decline, employees are terminated, quality decreases, readers and advertisers notice and stop reading and advertising, repeat cycle.

  3. That Poynter column is right on the mark. You can't cut quality and expect readers to stay with you. And if you can't keep your readers, why will advertisers be interested in what you are doing. Boy, how come we all see this and Corporate clearly does not.

  4. 8:33 Until yesterday's dramatic cuts, I thought some of them had come around to seeing what is going to work for newspapers. Today it is clear they still don't get it, and I guess My Boss's projection of 5,000 layoffs will come true. Idiots. Do I need to buy a bullhorn and stand on Jones Bridge Road and yell at the Crystal Palace that what you are doing is not the right way to go.

  5. @8:36 AM, it IS the right way to go for the GMC. They are interested in and managing for short-term profit. Long-term brand health or customer LTV does not enter into the equation. And, since the board rewards them handsomely for dismantling the company, what incentive do they have to experiment with any other goals or strategy?

    Sorry, but it's hard to argue with a $9 million-plus payday.

  6. 8:51 I agree with you, and am saying I've wakened up. I didn't think they could be this stupid, but yesterday they proved me wrong. I thought the delay in rolling out these layoffs was because they were having second thoughts and facing reality. Now I know that was wrong -- and terribly wrong.

  7. what I don't get with the newsroom hits is that if I want to read national news, I'll read a national publication. If I want to know the US Open scores, I'll go to ESPN, etc. Yet gannett keeps cutting the newsroom and using wire/national stories when they should be doing just the opposite. I was in the 09 layoffs, and it was the best day of my life. I remember one day pulling up our site's mobile app because there was unmoving traffic about 3 miles from the site, on a major commuter road, at rush hour at the beginning of a holiday weekend. On the mobile site: a couple of national news story, one national entertainment story and a stanley cup playoff story (neither team was remotely close to our site). I made the suggestion to my boss that we put breaking news and immediate-concern local/regional stories (traffic, weather events, etc.) in an easy-to-locate spot on our mobile site... he looked at me like I had 5 heads.

  8. Man The Lifeboats6/22/2011 10:03 AM

    The "Gannett way" has become similar to a lost our lease, everything must go fire sale.
    There is no business plan for the new century....repeat it like a mantra. Not when an assistant digital editor (who was damn good at his job and cared about the product) was laid-off at the APP. Not when it looks like tumble weeds should be blowing through the newsroom. Corporate is marking time so Dubrow, Martone and the other high paid vampires can bleed the corpse of this company dry.
    Everyone who is left should be hunting for that next job now, while you still have the luxury of a steady paycheck. If this wasn't a wake-up call to us "leftovers" then I don't know what is.

  9. What Gannett Corporate heads don't seem to get is this- if the people who produce the products that fill their pockets with gold are gotten rid of the gold stops coming in. Then what?

    That Corporate heads have the audacity to tell us still hanging on that these cuts are necessary because of a sagging economy, yet award themselves millions is a travesty. How does laying off, say..., the mailroom guy compare in relation to just the bonus Dubow received-let alone salary? And those salaries... these people don't know what a hard day's work is anymore. It's flat out greed.

    Hell awaits all of you. Treating people this way is simply... wrong. And there will be a price to pay because believe it or not, you reap what you sow. It doesn't have to be this way. Papers can still be profitable. But greed drives their short term actions. And greed will be Gannett's downfall.

  10. What gets me is how clueless they are. We are putting out some incredibly boring stuff. Look at USA Today today and I find myself agreeing with most of the stories, and adding that I really already knew that.
    Look at the hammock story in Your Life, for example. Nothing wrong with the story, and it is a professional job. But didn't I already somehow know that?
    I have that same reaction to the front page USAT stories saying that the Taliban is behind most Afghan civilian killings, or that there is drug use in the NCAA. I sort of guessed that already, and did it really have to be hammered home?
    I guess the bottom line for me is that I'm not learning something new that I didn't know before from these papers. Maybe I'm a peculiar audience, but I usually find something new and something I didn't know in most newspapers I look at. One editor I had once called these "Hey, Martha, read this story" stories. I guess today it would be that story you would link and send off to a friend via email. I can't remember the last time I linked a USAT story.

  11. This company's model will be to fill the paper with as much free content as possible through freesourcing. See Mark Silverman's statement. Also see The Tennessean now begging for columnists to write 8-week columns with no mention of pay. No one promises this content will be good. But it will certainly be free and is the new face of ...derp... journamalism.

    I mean, really, who needs to pay for words when we can get so many of them for free?

  12. All these moves are just a way of maximizing SHORT term profits and keeping the stock price high. The long term plan is the "beast will die" and the occupiers of the crystal palace will have done everything in there powers to increase their own personal wealth.
    The funny thing is everyone still working at Gannett knows this already and yet still cower and kiss ass and sweat out continuous rounds of layoff, it really is amazing. I say this not in judgment of anyone (I was a 2008 causality and if not I would probably be one of the cowers and ass kissers myself) just as a study of human nature and what we'll all put up with for a paycheck or the fear of the unknown.
    Anyways, take heart I can tell you life does go on after Gannett and you'll be just fine (but it's not a bad idea to start preparing yourself for that inevitable day).

  13. I worked for Gannett in the mid '80s in a couple of small towns. I don't understand how the company can still cut people and stay in business. Do they use a staff of volunteers? Farm out the work to people in India? I remember all the uncompensated overtime I used to do. A 50-hour workweek was a short week. It was probably 12 in the newsroom back in my day and we all worked crazy hours. I am just surprised those papers are still in business considering the further cuts that came and the drops in circulation.

  14. Several of the individual publishers' statements (Indy and at least one other) have said: We have to reconfigure ourselves going forward to survive on local advertising.

    That actually makes some sense. But then the cuts are ordered by corporate, via revenue targets handed down from McLean.

    So there's a disconnect there that I'm not sure can ever be reconciled as long as the individual papers are part of a heavily centralized corporation.

  15. 11:09 AM EXACTLY! You speak the truth!

  16. USA TODAY lost its luster even before the crash of print. The legendary dysfunction within that newsroom led to defections, scandal, poor hiring decisions, border disputes and a tremendous amount of wasted resources.

    The fall began about the time the new building opened, so by the time the recession hit, USAT was swamped with incompetent staffers and managers. The small percentage of talented and well-meaning employees were carry all the dead wood and making up for some horrible decisions by some awful mid and upper managers, some who are still calling shots within the newsroom or are the evil "off spring" of some of the editors who left.

    The place is toxic. There is a pattern of trying to correct mistakes by making even bigger mistakes in policy, hiring and other matters. There is no acknowledgement of the past errors, therefore there is no reason for optimism for the future.


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